“Follow the Fleet” scheme reborn in Cyberspace

New Interactive Learning Package Brings the World of Shipping to the Classroom

An interactive computer-based learning package, designed to allow schools across the country to “navigate the world from their desktops” was launched today (Friday 12th May) by Minister of State for Transport Pat “the Cope” Gallagher T.D. in Donegal. The package, developed by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) of the Marine Institute, is a 21st Century version of the highly popular Irish Shipping “Follow the Fleet” scheme of the 1970’s and ‘80’s that allows pupils to follow the course of the Irish merchant fleet, with desktop computers, animated graphics and real-time data streams replacing the old wall charts and coloured pins.  

Twelve local schools in Donegal participated in the “Follow the Fleet” pilot scheme, which will be rolled out nationally from September 2006.  The design stage was funded through the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources’ Innovation & Change Management Fund.    Follow the Fleet was designed by the IMDO and the Marine Institute’s IT Applications Team.  According to the designers, it is a highly innovative classroom system that brings many elements of the school curriculum together in an informative and fun manner for school children.  Specifically it provides real-time information on where goods are produced and how they make their way around the world by sea.                         

According to IMDO Director Mr. Glenn Murphy, “Over €130 billion worth of goods travelled in and out of Ireland by sea last year, representing over 90% of all traded goods. Ireland is an island. It is totally dependent on its maritime trade routes, which is an important message for the citizens of the future. “Follow the Fleet” is a wonderfully innovative way of teaching this message through subjects as diverse as geography, mathematics, science and history. The new “Follow the Fleet” scheme is fully interactive through the Internet, with a dedicated educational website hosting a world chart displaying in real-time the position of nominated Irish flagged vessels including the Marine Institute’s own research vessels RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager”.  The project focuses on the use of the Purple Finder Satellite Tracker System which uses a conjunction of satellite GPS and land-based communication services to provide position and situation data.     

Launching “Follow the Fleet”, Minister Gallagher said, “I’m delighted that Donegal, a county with a rich maritime tradition, was chosen for the pilot scheme.  I want to thank Sally Bonner and her team at the Donegal Education Centre for supporting this project as well as the national schools who participated in the pilot scheme and of course the ship owners and masters who have so graciously provided their time and co-operation to this initiative”.   

Describing the very positive experience of the scheme so far, Sally Bonner, Director of the Donegal Education Centre said, “I am delighted that we in Donegal got the opportunity to be involved in the pilot stages. I complement the teachers and schools who have committed their time and expertise to the venture and to IMDO for their contribution to the educational landscape. When first introduced to this project by the IMDO, I was immediately impressed with the overall concept and ideals of ‘Follow the Fleet’. The project provides an opportunity for the active involvement of children in a learning process that is imaginative and stimulating. It also acknowledges the importance of activity and discovery methods of learning and the child as an active agent in his or her learning. Learning is more effective when integrated and the ‘Follow the Fleet’ project content could be integrated with all seven curricular activities. This is truly an innovative and inspiring project, affording flexibility to the teacher by offering learning experiences that are valuable, unique and enjoyable.”  

“Follow the Fleet” will be launched nationally by the IMDO in time for the new academic year in September 2006. Schools wishing to avail of the scheme by logging onto the website and receiving the accompanying class material should contact IMDO via their website at www.imdo.ie